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Close to Home: The clean energy revolution rolls on

Marin and Sonoma counties, take a bow. Because of your pathfinding efforts with community choice, you have had a huge, positive impact on climate action and on California's emerging energy system. Marin's community choice agency, called MCE Clean Energy, began serving customers in 2010, and Sonoma's agency, Sonoma Clean Power, in 2014. Inspired by Marin and Sonoma, leaders across the state and nation are securing community choice benefits for their businesses and residents. To date in California, 17 more community choice agencies are serving customers, with more on the way.

Three striking statistics convey the impact that community choice is having statewide:

- 10 million: the number of Californians now being served by community choice, equal to 1 of every 4 Californians.

- 88: the percentage of greenhouse gas emission-free electricity delivered by California's 19 community choice agencies.

- 90: the percentage of new, renewable electricity that California community choice agencies will be responsible for procuring by 2030, projected by the California Public Utilities Commission.

In case you aren't familiar, community choice agencies purchase or generate electricity for business and residential customers, with a focus on clean, renewable energy sources. This clean energy, distributed on the existing power grid, reduces the demand and need for power produced using coal and other dirty sources. Revenue from sales is invested by the community choice agencies in new sources of renewable power as well as other programs that benefit the local community, for example, incentives to customers for electric vehicles.

The adage holds true for community choice: It takes a village to lift up an agency. In Sonoma's case, the Friends of Sonoma Clean Power included hundreds of endorsers from businesses to organizations to elected officials and other community leaders. Champions on local elected bodies convinced their peers to move forward. Donors to the Center for Climate Protection enabled us to build community support. Geof Syphers, Cordel Stillman and Steve Shupe of Sonoma Water met with at least a thousand people to explain the benefits and risks of community choice. They arranged the financing and other groundwork for the successful agency that Sonoma Clean Power is today.

Once momentum was underway, the Center for Climate Protection set its sights on spreading the model. We created an online resource hub, Clean Power Exchange, for communities statewide. In parallel, we focused on Silicon Valley, which established three community choice agencies. Now our organization is focused on spreading this solution to the Central Valley.

As part of our statewide work, on June 21 in Irvine we held our fifth symposium on community choice. The enthusiasm and engagement among the 325 attendees was very high. Symposium highlights:

- Keynote speaker Fran Pavley, the legislator most responsible for California's climate leadership, said community choice agencies are vital to reaching the state's bold climate goals.

- Santa Cruz County Supervisor Bruce McPherson told me that of all the accomplishments in his long career in publishing and politics, community choice stands out as the one for which he is most excited and proud.

- Tom Habashi, the only person who has been CEO of two community choice agencies, Santa Clara's and Monterey Bay's, told me that he continues to be dazzled by how much of a financial powerhouse the community choice model is.

Gratifying as the rapid spread of community choice is, including to other states, we need to do much more to address the climate crisis. Next for the Center for Climate Protection in its pursuit of speed and scale solutions include priorities such as:

- Accelerating the switch to clean cars and other vehicles.

- Accelerating the transition to a 21st-century energy system, one that is safer, more resilient, reliable, renewable, distributed, equitable, affordable, job-generating and innovative.

- Helping the climate movement as a whole become more powerful and effective.

Only with a village of supporters, investors and other partners can we do this. We invite you to learn more and join us at climateprotection.org.

Ann Hancock is executive director of the Center for Climate Protection in Santa Rosa.

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